Curiosity thrills with first eye-level photos of distant mountains

The mountainous rim of Gale Crater photographed by Curiosity’s navigational camera this morning. They look “misty” possibly because of dust haze. The scoured patch in the foreground might be from the sky crane’s rocket exhaust. Click for large version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The trickle of Mars photos is fast becoming a torrent.  Curiosity’s mast, the pole-like affair sticking out of the rover that holds the high resolution color cameras and navigational cameras (NavCams), went up this morning. We’re finally getting clear, high resolution pictures taken at eye level. Check out those mountains! Want to browse more images? Click HERE and HERE.

Another view of the distant hills in Gale Crater. Click for large version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Navcam on the mast looked down to photograph Curiosity’s mast and instrument platform. Click to for large version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Oh, OK – how about another fresh pic:

High-resolution picture of the heat shield falling to the Martian surface by Curiosity’s descent camera shortly after separation. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech with toning by Emily Lakdawalla and myself

Not only has Curiosity been busy shooting pictures but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) took a spectacular scene of the rover delivery stages strewn about the Martian landscape yesterday.

The heat shield was the first piece of hardware to hit the ground followed by the back shell attached to the parachute. The rover touched down next and the sky crane last. After the cables connecting it to the rover were cut, the crane flew off to the northwest and crashed. The darker areas around each object are where the dust was disturbed by rockets or impact revealing darker material beneath. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech/U. of A.

The first picture shows the wide scene that serves to locate the pieces. Click on the photo for a much higher resolution view. I then took the hi-res images and zoomed in for a clearer view in the panels below:

Closeup views from the high resolution picture taken by MRO of the rover and its parachute and back shell. Credit: NASA/JPLl-Caltech-U. of Ariz.

Closeups of the sky crane and heat shield crashes. The sky crane hit Mars at a very shallow or oblique angle, creating a jet-like blast pattern. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/U. of Ariz.

Meanwhile, mission controllers at JPL have been snapping more pictures with those Hazcams mounted on Curiosity’s chassis including a 3-D shot of the rover’s shadow and distant hills. I hope you have a pair of those red-blue glasses to try out on this pic – the view is amazing!

3-D look at Curiosity’s shadow and the distant hills including the 3.4 mile high Mt. Sharp. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here’s today’s status report on the rover from JPL: 
Curiosity is healthy as it continues to familiarize itself with its new home in Gale Crater and check out its systems. The team’s plans for Curiosity checkout today included raising the rover’s mast and continued testing of its high-gain antenna. Science data were collected from Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector, and activities were performed with the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station instrument.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

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